Let's Talk About Guns - No, Really. - By Greer Clem

It's a heavy topic but one that needs a good dose of common sense, so today I want to talk about guns. I'll start off light - let's talk about Jason Bourne vs. James Bond. Jason Bourne, American government experiment who then goes rogue and tries to figure out his real identity, but leaves a high death toll in his wake. James Bond, suave British spy with a license to kill who works on covert operations for MI6, British intelligence. What's the difference? The difference is that no rational British person looks at James Bond and thinks "yeah, I could be that guy." In America, there is a hero mentality that comes with the 2nd Amendment - the fact that owning a gun is not a privilege, it is a right. There are many Americans who believe arming the public is the way to ensure our safety, who look at someone like Jason Bourne and fantasize that for the every-man. This may seem like a silly allegory, but it illustrates the fundamental differences between American gun culture and gun culture in other western nations. 

It makes sense that this commitment to the 2nd Amendment is so well-rooted in America. Historically, the preservation of our union depended on civilians defending their land from the soldiers of King George. Nearly one hundred years later, the Civil War called for each man to protect his property, the call to battle illustrated by the right to bear arms. We started as a country of underdogs who needed to defend our limited land and brand new constitutional rights, but in our effort to preserve American pride we forget that the 1800s are long behind us. More importantly, we forget to distinguish what guns were then from what they are now. 

In the 1800s, if you had to defend your land from an animal or intruder, you were almost definitely using a hunting rifle. At most you could shoot about 6 shots at once, which at the time was a big deal. Today, the average American has the ability to buy assault rifles. For those who don't know, an assault rifle can hold about 30 rounds of ammunition. That 30 rounds comes in a magazine, meaning you could shoot hundreds of rounds of ammunition in a matter of minutes, given that it takes no more than a few seconds to change a magazine. Here comes the common sense part: why? Why would anyone need an assault rifle for personal use? The only answer is that they don't. Recreation is not a justifiable reason, and I actually propose a solution to this problem: assault weaponry should never be available for private purchase. There should be designated ranges where one can go and shoot such weaponry in a safe and controlled environment. There's your recreation. Now, I can hear gun rights advocates already objecting, but let me continue my argument for regulation. 

If you are a responsible gun owner, you should rationally have no objection to regulation and background checks because you will pass all tests. If you were raised with gun safety and training, know how to properly store guns empty of ammunition and away from children, then this shouldn't concern you at all. The fact that it does is frankly ridiculous. But it does beg the question, if you're so responsible why do we need more enforced regulation at all? 

Good question. The answer is that states are not doing enough to educate those around you. For every responsible gun owner, there is some idiot a couple miles away who is able to walk into a gun store and purchase a gun without having to prove he even knows where the safety is. In fact, 26 states will let you carry a concealed gun without even checking to make sure you know how to use it. Think about that: in 26 of our 50 states, you can buy a gun and carry it without ever being asked to demonstrate you know how to use it. That's a lot of people walking around thinking they're Jason Bourne. I like to think that even the most devout gun rights advocates would agree that is a recipe for disaster. 

Okay, now maybe you, Mr./Ms.  Responsible Gun Owner, agree with me that this is a bad situation, but you say, "it's fine because background checks have got you covered." Sadly, you're not entirely right. Recently, there has been much discussion of domestic violence abusers and gun violence. People are rightly asking how, for example, the shooter in Alexandria, Virginia, who had a history of domestic violence, was allowed to purchase a gun and have a license to have a concealed weapon. That is because federal laws that prohibit domestic violence offenders from obtaining guns are severely limited. For example, "dating partners are not within the federal prohibitions unless the partners are/were cohabitating as spouses or have a child in common." The current prohibitions also do not address family members who are not a child or intimate partner, which in many cases still leaves most family members. The federal laws that prohibit domestic violence offenders from obtaining guns also do nothing to ensure that guns already possessed by offenders are removed. To even be considered a domestic violence offender, you have to have been convicted in a court of law, which means that these federal regulations don't prevent people convicted of stalking from obtaining weapons.  And even when everything goes right under federal laws, the domestic offender can still obtain a gun through an unlicensed or private seller. 

So, a domestic violence abuser not convicted in a court of law has the ability to walk in to any gun store in 26 states and purchase a military-grade weapon without ever proving he knows how to use it. That's where we're at, and that's why it's important to have common sense conversations. When a Representative is shot just across the river from the White House, we need to be talking, and not across party lines. This is common sense stuff - I cannot rent a car until I am 25, but I could buy a gun without ever demonstrating that I knew where the safety was. Think of how many hours you have to train to scuba dive or to get your pilot's license - it rationally makes no sense the way our laws treat gun ownership.

Now, I know many people who argue that liberal Democrats want to take away their guns and that's as far into the conversation as they're willing to get. As a liberal Democrat, let me assure you that if you are a responsible gun owner not convicted of a crime who respects what a gun is, I have no desire to take anything away from you. Even people who were raised to learn gun safety at a young age still refuse to acknowledge the necessity of teaching it to others. Lastly, before anyone accuses me of being a coastal elite unfamiliar with the subject matter, let it be said I grew up hunting with my dad; I learned how to shoot a rifle when I was 12 and was taught such vigorous gun safety that for the first three years I went hunting I wasn't allowed to have any ammunition. I had to carry my empty rifle and treat it as though it was loaded until my dad felt I was ready. Still not listening? I can also skin and field dress a deer, so put that in your 2nd Amendment pipe and smoke it - I'm here to talk. 


Greer Clem